The First Look: Fortinet Championship

The First Look: Fortinet Championship

The PGA TOUR season begins anew with its annual stop in Napa, California, for the Fortinet Championship.

After a spectacular season, Jon Rahm gets going right away in 2021-22, leading the field at Silverado Resort and Spa.

FIELD NOTES:  Jon Rahm, who finished runner-up in the FedExCup, leads the way in California. Rahm, who won the U.S. Open and is currently the No. 1 player in the world, notched a TOUR-high 15 top-10 finishes in just 22 events last season… Will Zalatoris will make his debut as an official PGA TOUR member… Rahm is joined by two other major winners from last season: Phil Mickelson and Hideki Matsuyama… Cameron Champ, the 2019 champion is in the field. He won the 3M Open earlier this year, giving him a victory in each of his first three seasons on the PGA TOUR. Brendan Steele, winner at Silverado in 2016 and 2017, also is in the field… Plenty of California connections this week including Cal alum Max Homa and former Stanford star Maverick McNealy, as well as Champ, who is a Northern California native… Lots of PGA TOUR rookies will make their debuts after graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour, including Greyson Sigg, Taylor Pendrith, Davis Riley, Justin Lower, and 39-year-old David Skinns (after an emotional triumph at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Regular Season finale in August)… Sponsor exemptions include former collegiate standouts John Augenstein, Turk Pettit, Trevor Werbylo, and Kevin Yu. Yu finished fourth in the 2021 PGA TOUR U ranking, and translated that Korn Ferry Tour status into five top-25s in eight starts, including a runner-up and T5. Werbylo, who was ninth in the 2021 PGA TOUR U standings, was this year’s Forme Tour Player of the Year. For winning that circuit’s points race, he is exempt onto the Korn Ferry Tour next year. Pettit won this year’s NCAA individual title, then won in just his third start on the Forme Tour… Among the players making the commute from last week’s BMW PGA Championship, the flagship event on the European Tour, to the PGA TOUR season opener in Napa are Kiradech Aphibarnrat and Aaron Rai, who both earned their TOUR cards via the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, as well as former Masters champion Danny Willett.

FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 FedExCup points.

COURSESilverado Resort and Spa (North), par 72, 7,123 yards. The course opened in 1955 and was redesigned by Robert Trent Jones Jr. when the resort added the South course. Multi-time TOUR winner Johnny Miller freshened up the layouts about a decade ago. This year marks the sixth playing of the Fortinet Championship at Silverado. Located in the heart of California’s wine country, the layout boasts undulating tree-pinched fairways, challenging greens, and meanders through mature trees.

STORYLINES: It’s the start of another race to the FedExCup. After the previous campaign on TOUR – a Super Season that contained 50 events – the upcoming 2021-22 season won’t be as robust but will certainly not be void of drama. It all gets started in Napa… Plenty of guys will be looking to continue their momentum from the Korn Ferry Tour into the PGA TOUR. Stephan Jaeger, Greyson Sigg, Davis Riley, and Adam Svensson were all two-time winners, Joseph Bramlett won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship (and led the Korn Ferry Tour Finals Points List), while Mito Pereira won three times to earn an immediate promotion to the PGA TOUR this summer, where he had two top-6 finishes before finishing T4 in the Olympics.    

72-HOLE RECORD: 262, Cameron Beckman (2008 at Grayhawk GC), Kevin Sutherland (2008 at Grayhawk GC), Troy Matteson (2009 at Grayhawk GC), Rickie Fowler (2009 at Grayhawk GC), Jamie Lovemark (2009 at Grayhawk GC). Silverado record: 267, Stewart Cink (2020)

18-HOLE RECORD: 18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Mark Hensby (2nd round, 2007 at Grayhawk GC), Kevin Stadler (2nd round, 2008 at Grayhawk GC), Troy Matteson (2rd & 3rd rounds, 2009 at Grayhawk GC), Mike Weir (4th round, 2009 at Grayhawk GC), Chesson Hadley (2nd round, 2017 at Silverado).

LAST TIME: Stewart Cink won for the first time since his Open Championship triumph in 2009 at last season’s Fortinet Championship in Napa. His win came at 47 years old and in the process he became the oldest winner on TOUR since Phil Mickelson’s Pebble Beach victory in February 2019 (Mickelson was 48). Cink closed with a 7-under 65 (his second-straight 65 on the weekend) and a finishing-hole birdie to top Harry Higgs by two. Higgs missed a 10-foot birdie try on 17 and parred 18 to fall just short of Cink’s winning total. Cink had his son, Reagan, as his caddie, and the father-son duo would go on to win once more in 2020-21 (RBC Heritage). Doc Redman, Chez Reavie, Kevin Streelman, and Brian Stuard finished a shot further back at 18-under, and tied for third.


HOW TO FOLLOW

Television: Thursday-Sunday: 6 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (Golf Channel)

PGA TOUR LIVE: Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. (Featured Groups)

Radio: Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.-9 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 4 p.m.-9 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com/liveaudio).

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